The ensemble Gray Code takes its name from the mathematical structure that organizes many of its performances. The algorithm was named for Frank Gray of Bell Laboratories, who patented its use for "pulse code communications" in 1953.
In performances using the Gray Code structure for five players, we proceed through all the possible combinations of members of the group, including the silence that starts and ends the performance, five solos, ten duets, ten trios, five quartets, and the single quintet involving all the players. Each combination appears exactly once. To move from any combination to the one that follows it, a single player starts or stops performing.
In most cases,, only the order of entrances and exits (as determined by the Gray Code algorithm) and a rough sense of the performance's total duration are known in advance. All other aspects of the performance are improvised.
We recorded the performance of Gray Code for Five on this CD an May 21, 2000 at Goodfella's on Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia as part of the Frankford Arts Festival. The venue's windows were open, occasionally letting in the sound of the Frankford Elevated Train as it rushed past, once in the midst of the performance and once, beautifully, in the silence at the end.
For this performance, our order of appearance was: